Henry Moore sculpture found on family's mantlepiece could fetch £50,000

ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar speaks to the valuer who found the seven-inch Mother and Child sculpture by Henry Moore in a farmer's home

A "unique and rare" sculpture created by Castleford born artist Henry Moore has been discovered after sitting on a family's mantlepiece for years.

The work, called Mother And Child, has been traced back to a sketch from 1939 by The Henry Moore Foundation, who authenticated the piece alongside Dreweatts auctioneers.

Dreweatts has said the piece was crafted in 1939-40 and had been a gift to the original owner, Hubert de Cronin Hastings, who was at that time the editor of The Architectural Review.

The auctioneers have valued the sculpture at an estimated £30,000 to £50,000 but said it could fetch much more when it goes up for sale later this year.

Hubert de Cronin Hastings. Credit: PA/Family Photo

The piece was given to Mr de Cronin Hastings via Moore’s friend Jim Richards, who was assistant editor of the same publication.

In the 1970s, it was passed down to his son, John Hastings, who kept it on his mantelpiece among an eclectic mix of objects until he died in 2019.

Dreweatts specialist Francesca Whitham described the sculpture as "unique and rare", partly because Moore only briefly worked with lead in the 1930s.

She said: "It has been such a fascinating journey working with this rare Henry Moore sculpture.

"I was elated, after many months of delays due to Covid restrictions, to finally receive the letter from the foundation authenticating the piece as a genuine Moore."

Long-lost art found in attics and basements

Mother and Child is among a long line of masterpieces that have turned up in unusual places:

  • Portrait of a Lady  - Lost for 23 years and found in 2019 after being stolen. It was discovered in the wall of a gallery.

  • Qing dynasty vase - Lost for around 75 years before being found in 2010 in an attic near London Heathrow.

  • Portrait of a Lady as Flora - The painting was discovered in 2008 in the attic of a French Chateau after being lost for 250 years. It later sold for $3.1 million.

  • Sunset at Montmajour - The Van Gogh painting was found in 1970 after being missing since the start of the century. It was found in a Norweigan attic.

  • Judith Beheading Holofernes - The painting was lost for 325 years and was eventually found by a Toulouse auctioneer in a "leaky" attic.

Moore experimented with lead while working with rope and wire to create his famous stringed sculptures, and Mother And Child is believed to have been a preliminary design for a stringed piece.

The Henry Moore Foundation linked the work to a 1939 sketch by Moore from its records, titled Eighteen Ideas For Sculpture.

It will be offered in Dreweatts modern and contemporary art sale on March 16 this year.

The pit town prodigy

Henry Moore was born in Castleford, a mining town in West Yorkshire, in 1898, and after training to be a teacher and serving in the British Army he studied at Leeds School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.

He is considered a pioneer of his craft and was the first British artist to become globally recognised in his lifetime.

Moore’s sculptures are now seen as symbolising post-war modernism, and The Henry Moore Foundation credits his work with creating a British sculptural renaissance.